Dear Stephen,

Na na na na boo boo! You’re just as tragic as me and you want to be remembered just as much! (No one performs like you do intending to be forgotten.) Obviously you haven’t taken a peek at the pic under “Seriously” (on Reflexivity’s Main Page) for a while. Please do, and imagine me blowing you a raspberry.


That was actually the second response to your “What if somebody threw a blog and no one came” reposte to my “Why Blog” responses to Todd’s questions, which I attempted to use persuasively with the DRP class.
I found your response disingenous in a few ways. Primarily in that you criticize unmercifully any iota of “psychologizing” however what you’re really saying is that I wasn’t psychological enough! In fact, this has been your critique of the Democrats all along. That they don’t USE the PSYCHOLOGY that the Republicans have no qualms about deploying at will!
More deeply, however, I have three hypotheses for “what’s going on” with this debate.
1. a moral disagreement
2. a power struggle
3. a “push”
1. What would be the moral nexus of dispute? David suggests our debate is as simple as you saying, “Why?” and me saying, “Why not?” Doesn’t this capture the tenor of any democratic discussion? I think its a bit more than that though. Because you are exercising the Burkean negative with every ounce you’ve got. What this means is, IF anyone is EVER going to post in the blog again (comments, let alone as an author), they’re going to have to REALLY WANT TO. This isn’t a bad thing, I don’t think, although I do think it was rude of you to completely diss Shannon’s post.
So, what do you want? A democracy without desire? I don’t think so, just without MY desire? I felt the urgency because I felt the urgency! Let’s imagine for a moment. If the DRP class had continued to post and pursue our various discussions here, there would have been a different feel/context to my posting about the “overenrollment policy.” Of course I didn’t plan it – who knew such an issue was about to arise? But a site that’s already operating communally would serve a protective function for those willing to stick their necks out. Which could very easily be not just me. All I’m saying is I had an intuition, and it drove me to action. In retrospect, I wonder if the urgency was about things that might unfold. Is this what invokes a moral realm? I’m not sure. There’s all the convoluted stuff about self-interest and other-interest and the debate we skirted in class about “the higher ground” vs “at any cost”.
But maybe the moral dilemma is about having a democracy without accountability? At any rate, I characterized my last persuasive attempt as a “throw down” after the fact, reflecting upon how people may have received it. Because my persistence is a reminder that folks said they valued the blog, and even wanted a blog, and a few (for various reasons) even preferred the blog. Just not this blog. Patience, you say? Don’t get me started! There it is, no one (this is just descriptive!) has taken initiative to move us toward another blog. You mentioned guilt. That’s not me, dude. That’s you. I’m only explaining this to argue that I haven’t been or felt accusatory. Let down, perhaps. What can I say? I get hopeful, then I feel the disappointment. Life goes on. (I get hopeful, try again….) Glutton for punishment? Whatever. It’s my mode of “negation”, I guess. ;-/
2. Ah, group dynamics! It is interesting that the blog became such an issue right at the time that it: a) was poised to move beyond the confines of your class, b) when outsiders started joining the conversation, and c)….what else was going on then? Let’s say neither of us was angry when we were “yelling” at each other across the table (second-to-last-class?), but we were both pretty durn passionate. Why did reading about my Uncle Sam suddenly become an issue? It never bothered you before! And why read it if you’re not interested? I don’t get that at all. Who imposed any kind of obligation upon you to do anything whatsover with parts of the blog that don’t interest you? I think what I’m reacting to here is some distinction it seems you’re making that the stuff posted to date hasn’t been “public” and that under different conditions (?) somehow it will be “more so”?
However, the fireworks (between us) have upped the stakes tremendously for anyone who was feeling even barely, just so slightly inclined to participate, because now their action can only occur as an act of defiance to your expression of resistance. Is this your vision of enactment? That “democracy” occurs only in acts of negation? Which kind of brings me back to another question David asked, which was, “What’s the point [of continuing to blog]?” Do we need an “endpoint”, a “common goal”, a “vision” to guide us? I think the doing is its own purpose. But some things have changed, and I guess maybe they are more relevant than I’d thought. The class did end. We now have no common academic purpose uniting us (although the reading groups may change this). Yet we still share things via email. Otherwise….the things that apparently bother(ed) folks about the blog were “there” all along and didn’t stop folks from commenting….now they’re a huge obstacle? BUT, it IS a big deal to ask you all to become authors so that I’m not driving the whole shebang by myself. I can’t. It’s that simple. And that selfish? While not every issue and angle brought up interests me, most do, and what a treat it is when a conversation actually does take off! I want to tease folks about learning a new click pattern, because that’s what we’re talking about. Four new clicks and a tab or two to routinize into a new habit, instead of the familiar clicks it takes to send email. Hey, I’m not knocking what a big deal it is! I have PLENTY of too-embarassing things in my own life that only need a five minute initial lesson and a few repetitions that I can’t seem to accomplish to save my life. BUT, if that’s what this is about, let’s not make it more grandious (Donna saying she was too busy didn’t strike me as an attempt at a comic frame, simply a statement of subjective fact).
Speaking of the comic, what I notice is that when it happens successfully it is as an emergent feature between people, whereas the tragic is more individualistic, perhaps verging on the solipsistic? I’d say my good friend Sarbjeet was being comic when he told everyone about watching me use a chainsaw at my house a year or so ago, and thinking to himself, “she’s someone you’ve got to be Really Sure you want to get to know!”
You mentioned rules for the blog. there haven’t been many but I have put thought to this and think it would be awesome if folks would weigh in about what “rules” they think are necessary, which are guidelines with some flexibility, and what kinds of things should be left unregulated?
3. What is “push”? So asks David (making quite the guest appearance in this post!) after I used that term to describe certain discursive situations in the media literacy class I taught to some 6th graders last fall. David astutely categorized it as a “term for talk,” and indeed it is! I experience it when I have some set parameters in mind for what’s “supposed” to be discussed and (in that instance) the kids wanted to go somewhere else. Often, I can go “somewhere else” with them for awhile and steer them back, but sometimes (due to my own limitations, lack of imagination, stubbornness, or sense of commitment to the contract I had with the school about what I was “supposed” to be covering) I just didn’t want to go there. Those are moments of “push.” My speculation, is that the blog has become symbolic of a discursive pushing….in other words, I don’t think the blog is the real issue. It may be the material manifestation of it, but the question, I think, really is about what kind of engagement the class members really want (or at least wanted then, which may be different now) with each other.
“Push” could be about ideology. It’s certainly about action. It definitely has a temporal element. You insist the site must be COMIC – hey, I’m all with that but I don’t think we just decide to make it so, we have to enact it. And that means we have to engage. It is not just for me to drive this thing, never was, never will be. In fact the best conversations that have occurred here include me only as a bit player!
Maybe ultimately all three of these factors are at play (and more I’m not creative enough to perceive) – feeding off each other, a kind of group dynamic/group discourse tag team.

One thought on “Dear Stephen,”

  1. There is a substantial difference between doing psychology and psychologizing. The latter is a reduction of complex social and communicative acts into a prescribed individual motive. That is what I object to, and that is always what I will object to. Take, for instance, your counter-claim that I do not want to be forgotten. Oh really? And you know this how

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